Virtual reality has arrived, with the launch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive grabbing headlines. But the best value way to explore the new world of VR is still the Samsung Gear VR, the impressive headset that’s powered by your Samsung smartphone.
The reason it’s such good value? There are already loads of incredible apps and games for you to download, and plenty are free. So to help get you started with your Gear VR, we’ve hunted down the best free virtual reality apps and games.
Best free apps
The Netflix app on the Gear VR isn’t what you might be thinking – you don’t get to watch any movie in 360⁰. Instead, you get transported to your own private cabin in the mountains. You’re sat on a comfy sofa with snowy peaks visible through the windows and, most importantly, a colossal TV right in front of you.
The TV works just like the regular Netflix app and is easy to navigate as you just look at what you want to watch and tap. What really surprised us was picture quality – as the Gear VR puts your phone screen about an inch from your face, we had expected the pixels to be much more noticeable.
Jaunt has been creating fun VR experiences for a while now, like this one where you’re on stage with Paul McCartney, but now its Gear VR app brings everything together alongside some content from other VR producers.
There’s an exclusive trailer for Zoolander No.2, a trip up the ancient city of Machu Pichu and loads more. The way everything’s laid out is great and we can see this app growing into a really great place to watch videos.
Vrse is a major producer of VR videos, and its app is full of impressive experiences. Our favourite is probably the music video for Muse, but the serious stuff created with the New York Times and United Nations is pretty impressive too. This is a VR app you’ll want to keep using as it gets new content all the time.
A web browser might not be the most exciting app for virtual reality, but it is a really important one. Samsung Internet makes it easy to go searching for 360⁰ videos and photos. More importantly, though, it takes the first steps on VR’s road to being our main device. It’s like the first web browser for mobile – a little less practical than a desktop, but a fantastic starting point.
Best free games
InCell is a really good endless runner game, like Temple Run, and it’s been brilliantly thought out for the Gear VR.
Imagine you a doctor in the future. You have the technology to shrink people and machinery down so they can travel inside the human body. That where you come into InCell.
You’re in a ship about to enter an influenza cell. Your mission is to get to collect the right proteins and get to the nucleus so you can destroy the flu.
The graphics are great and the game’s only controlled by head movements for a more immersive experience. The science even sounds right! You’re moving pretty quickly, though, so if you suffer from motion sickness you might want to give this one a miss.
Smash Hit VR
Smash Hit is beautifully designed. It’s another endless runner but is pretty different to the usual ones.
At the top of your view you have a stock of balls, and as you’re whisked through the landscape you have to throw your balls at glass obstacles and towers. Smash the obstacles to keep moving unharmed and smash the towers to gain extra balls. The game ends when you’re out of balls.
It’s simple, looks great and will have you trying to better your high score every day.
If you’re after a casual game, Bait! is perfect. It’s a simple fishing game with cartoony graphics, a nice story that keeps the game unfolding and surprisingly challenging tasks. It’s the perfect game to dip in and out of.
FindingVR is a nice puzzle/adventure game for the kids. The graphics and gameplay are similar to early 3D games on the original PlayStation, which gives a nice nostalgic feel for the grownups.
You have to solve simple puzzles and defeat enemies as you make your way through caves on a quest to help a giant. It’s a game that makes you realise virtual reality is taking its first sure steps on the road to real quality.
Best free experiences
Rose will become the place to see high quality CGI videos in virtual reality. Right now, it’s got one animation, Rosebud, but it’s well worth a watch. It’s beautifully made and bodes well for the future.
The Night Café: An immersive Tribute to Van Gogh
Ever wondered what it would be like to see the world through Van Gogh’s eyes? The Night Café takes one of the Dutch artist’s most famous paintings and turns it into a 360⁰ virtual world. You can even go beyond the painting into other rooms, populated with bits of Van Gogh’s other works. It’s really surreal and well worth exploring.
Have you got any apps or games for the Samsung Gear VR that you love? Tell us about them in the comments below.